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Don't Be a Worry Wart: A Guide to Common Warts and How to Get Rid of Them

Don't Be a Worry Wart:
A Guide to Common Warts and How to Get Rid of Them

How to Tell a Wart from Other Skin Problems
How Warts Happen
The Most Common Ways to Get Warts
How to Get Rid of Warts at Home
Types of Warts and Treatment Options
Warts: What You Need to Know

This is a guide to common types of warts and how to get rid of them, pronto. Warts occur in people of all ages, but are most common in children and teenagers. They're caused by a viral infection in the outer layer of skin. The family of viruses that cause warts is called the human papilloma virus. back to top

How to Tell a Wart from Other Skin Problems
Warts are easy to identify. If you look closely at one, you will see that it looks and feels different from normal skin. Up close, a wart looks like a rough spot on the skin. It often has tiny black dots on its surface. Warts are usually flesh-colored, rough to the touch, and may look like cauliflower. If you're not positive that a growth is a wart, make an appointment with your health professional so he or she can tell you what it is and how to treat it. back to top

How Warts Happen
The bad news is that warts can spread easily from one part of the body to another. For example, if you shave an area that has warts, you can spread the virus. You can also spread warts by picking at them. The good news is that warts are not easily passed from one person to another. In many cases, they go away on their own. The exception is genital warts, which are highly contagious and must be treated by a health professional. back to top

The Most Common Ways to Get Warts
  • Warts will spring up in places where the skin has been damaged, like where you've pulled at a hang nail, for example.
  • If you walk around barefoot at pools and in public locker rooms, you're more likely to get plantar warts, a specific type of wart that occurs on the bottom of the foot. To be on the safe side, wear thongs or other protective footwear whenever you can.
  • Some people get warts just because they're more susceptible to the virus that causes warts. It's the same way that some people are more likely to get a cold than others are. back to top
How to Get Rid of Warts at Home
  • Have your mom or dad or another adult get a wart-removal medicine containing salicylic acid from the drugstore.
  • Wash your feet, then apply the liquid as directed to the wart. Protect the healthy skin around the wart with petroleum jelly.
  • Cover the area with a Band-Aid and leave the medicine on overnight.
  • Repeat every night until the wart is gone.
This process is slow, but it does work. back to top

Types of Warts and Treatment Options
  • Common warts. These start out as smooth, flesh-colored mounds and turn into gray-brown growths with black dots on the surface. They occur mostly on the hands. Salicylic acid usually works to get rid of this type of wart. Most wart-removal medicines that you can buy at the drugstore have salicylic acid. You can use them at home with an adult's help (see How to Get Rid of Warts at Home for instructions). Another option is to go to your health professional. He or she can apply liquid nitrogen to freeze off the wart. Or you might get a prescription for a medication that you can apply yourself at home. Your dermatologist also might use a laser or electrocautery, a method that gets rid of the wart by destroying tissue with an electric current.
  • Filiform and Digitate Warts. These fingerlike, flesh-colored projections are common on the face. Of all the types of warts, these are the easiest to treat. A health professional cuts the wart off at the base and then applies pressure to control the bleeding. Light electrocautery also works for these kinds of warts.
  • Flat Warts. These slightly elevated, flat-topped bumps come in a variety of colors: pink, light brown, or light yellow. They're very small and like to travel in groups. They are most common on the forehead, near the mouth, on the backs of the hand, and on shaved areas such as the lower legs. (If you have warts on your legs, try to shave around them, if possible. Nicks can spread the virus and result in a new "colony" of warts). This type of wart usually can't be treated easily. But it may clear up on its own after a while. Your health professional may give you a prescription for a tretinoin cream, such as Retin-A. This treatment might take a few months to work, and is not always effective. It takes about two months to see results. Your health professional may also try freezing the warts with liquid nitrogen, or using electrocautery on them.
  • Plantar Warts: Plantar warts occur on the bottom of the foot. They are common in teenagers and are most likely picked up at pools and in public locker rooms. Plantar warts may go away on their own. If they are not causing pain, you can let them be. You can treat plantar warts at home (check out How to Get Rid of Warts at Home) or see your health professional for other treatment options. back to top
Warts: What You Need to Know
  • There are several types of warts caused by different viruses in the same family.
  • They spread easily from one part of your body to another, but they don't spread very easily from person to person.
  • For best results, see a dermatologist, who can tell you what kind of wart you have and explain the best treatment options.
  • Warts are not appealing, but in most cases you can get rid of them easily. back to top
Last Modified Date: 4/4/2001
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